The Western Cape High Court has issued a momentous order that will bring some relief to homeless people in Cape Town.
City of Cape Town by-laws on homeless people
The City of Cape Town was hauled to court by seven homeless people, represented on a pro bono basis by advocates Nick de Jager and Adiel Nacerodien.
The litigants, as reported by Daily Maverick, have applied for an interdict to prevent the city from confiscating homeless people’s belongings and issuing fines to them.
The two by-laws which are at the centre of this court case relate to public spaces and waste management. The mere enactment of these by-laws makes it illegal for people without shelter or a home to find means of survival in and around Cape Town.
From the City’s perspective, there should be no special treatment given to homeless people if, by virtue of the by-laws and the provincial constitution, their conduct is considered illegal.
The Sea Point Fresnaye and Bantry Bay ratepayers association, the Atlantic Seaboard Action Group and the Green Point Neighbourhood Watch, have all backed the City in its defence, claiming that there has to be accountability for homeless people who beg aggressively, squat and dig in bins.
The associations’ main concern, as it was heard in court, was the perceived impact homeless people’s behaviour – and presence – may have on tourism and small businesses.
“The homeless are saying that they want to be immune from any consequences.”
Advocate Johan De Waal, representing the associations
Contents of the court order
Proceedings concluded at the Western Cape High Court with a settlement reached between all parties. The presiding judge, Bernard Martin, resolved to make modifications to the order enforced by Judge Lee Bozalek, in September, with a ruling that benefitted all parties.
Up until Martin’s amendments, the Bozalek order had prohibited the city from confiscating homeless people’s personal property, harassing them and/or issuing fines to them.
Martin has extended the amended Bozalek order pending the outcome of a hearing on the Constitutionality of the two by-laws in question. However, in the interim, the City has been granted leave to enforce its by-laws without the use of violence.
Law enforcement officers are also not allowed to confiscate homeless people’s personal property. The settlement, though, made no mention of the issuance of fines.